Nadal blasts 'fastest ever Oz courts'
Rafael Nadal has raised concerns over the supposedly quicker courts at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open.
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Court speed was one of the hot topics of conversation in the pre-tournament press conferences, with Roger Federer and Andy Murray dismissing suggestions that they are playing faster.
The annually-relaid Plexicushion is exactly the same as previously used at the season's opening Grand Slam, according to tournament director Craig Tiley.
Nadal, who has enjoyed his greatest success on clay with eight French Open titles to his name, is making his first appearance in Melbourne since his infamous marathon final with Novak Djokovic in 2012, having missed last year's event due to injury and illness.
When asked about the court speed, Nadal said it was "completely different conditions than what I remember of this tournament. Faster conditions than I ever played here in Australia.
"I really don't understand very well why they change because the last couple of years, Australian Open had amazing matching, long ones, good ones for the crowd. I don't know why the people who decide to make the conditions that fast.
"I am not sure for the show is the best thing. But they decide and I'm just a player to try to be competitive from the beginning.
"I arrived one week before. I think that I am practising better a little bit every day. I hope to adjust my game to these conditions."
In contrast, Murray said the conditions were the "same as last year, exactly the same. Same balls. Same speed."
Federer added: "I think even these conditions here, we'll see long rallies after all. We're not talking about a lightning-speed court.
"In Brisbane it was fast, but it wasn't lightning either. This is like medium, if that. I don't know what the big problem is."
Meanwhile, Nadal knows he has his work cut out on his return to Melbourne.
He has been paired with Bernard Tomic in the first round, and should he make it past the mercurial Australian, dangerous names like Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Martin del Potro await in his quarter.
Tomic, 21, is ranked only 52nd but is one of the most talented young players in the men's game and loves a big occasion, especially on home soil.
He has made at least the third round in Melbourne for the last three years and will only arrive at Melbourne Park on Sunday after playing in the final of the Apia International in Sydney, which he lost to Del Potro.
"Good start," said Nadal with a smile. "It's not the best round I know to start a grand slam, playing against a player who is local and who is young, who played great in the past here, and who is playing well.
"It's a tough start. But I just need to be ready and practise with great tactics every day, try to do the right things in every moment to arrive in the first round with the competitive (juices flowing). That's the only way."
Nadal met Tomic at the Australian Open two years ago, prevailing in three sets but having been a break down in two of them.
"He's always a challenging player," said the Spaniard. "He has a big talent. He has a good serve. He's able to play with very good control from the baseline."